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Wednesday, 29 September 2010

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Dear Nikon,

Please start making the Coolscan V again.

Thank you,
A Born-Again Film Fan

Regular as clockwork every few years someone announces the resurgence of this that or the other thing. I won't mention anything specifically to avoid offending the true believers among us. Now you can add film to that list.

I'm glad I still have my FM2n and 28mm 2.8 manual focus. Unfortunately it's sooooo difficult to find a BW film. At least in the city I live in.

That is very much my story. Started getting serious with photography on digital, and my day job now involves shooting digital.

However, every time I get back Velvia slides or Portra prints taken with my FM2, I get all tingly inside. The Velvia looks to me exactly how I want my photos to feel. The two rolls of Portra I just got back nails the look I want for family shots.

Sadly, I miss the convenience of digital. It may be a generational thing, too, but I don't know that I'll ever get prints made because it seems to be a huge hassle to drive across town, drop off negatives or slides, then drive back to pick them up. Online print ordering is much more my speed.

However, going from a 40D with zooms for work use to my FM2 with primes for personal use is a good mental exercise that helps keep me on my toes.

Well, the quote is from the marketing manager for film at Kodak. It's his job to spin that message.

Nevertheless, I haven't abandoned film altogether. I still use it for personal projects and select client work.

Regardless, the frames I choose for a project are scanned and post-produced on the computer. Once the image is fully edited and saved, every print will look the same.


I'm 28 years old, so I'm part of a "bridge generation" between film and digital.

I'ts amazing how new generations have changed the way they aproach to photography. A few years ago, mi eight year old brother got angry at me because I didn´t want to show him the picture I've just taken.......with my father's K1000!!

It took a little convincing and a lot of time in the dark room for him to like film as much as I do.

I don't think there's going back for that.

What would you expect Kodak to say? Their financials tale the truth, though, minus the marketing hype: 2Q sales for the division that includes film and processing were down 22 percent from a year ago. And have been declining quarter over quarter for several years.

My newspaper photojournalism career started just as film was gasping its last dying breaths in that industry. In 2003 I sold all my film gear to fund the purchase of a digital SLR since the paper I worked for at the time refused to put up their own money. Really wish I'd never done that.

In 2008 I bought an ancient EOS 620 that I could stick my lenses on so I could have some fun shooting the "old way." I enjoyed it so much that I started shooting some personal projects with it.

When I left that last paper I sold all my digital stuff and bought an old Pentax with a 50mm lens. Maybe its my nostalgia, but I really love shooting film.

Finding places that will do a decent job of developing and scanning these days, is another story.

I fall into the group of kids (kid being relative, I'm 28!) being introduced to film in college as well. I started on a digital rebel years ago, and have been shooting on a 50D for about a year and a half. This month I started my photography studies at Holland College and the first semester is entirely black & white film. We use T-MAX 100 and 400 only, 35mm and 120. I'm shooting on an OM2 for 35mm and we have several Pentax & Mamiya medium format bodies..

Yesterday I processed my first roll of T-Max 400, pushed to 3200. Loading the roll into the developing tank in the pitch dark was an experience. Cut myself twice and somehow fogged my first 5 or 6 frames. Ah well, it's a learning process, right?

Tomorrow we start printing :)

I bought my Canon 1D mark2 the day it came out (well, pre-ordered it.) Love that camera. Took it to Mt. Everest base camp in Nepal. Shot a 100 mile race through the Rockies with it. Great camera.

9 months after getting it, I bought a Leica M6 and 50mm Summilux off ebay. I just missed good ol' black and white film. (And yes, I was lured by the mysticism of Leica.)

Still have the 1D. Recently bought a 5D2. Digital is great. But nothing compares to running Tri-X through an old Leica. (Or Portra 160 for people shots.) I find that film complements digital. And people have a longing for analog. Look at the "Hipstamatic" app on iPhone. Or the resurgence of vinyl.

That's great. I have no interest in shooting film myself -- but it's an amazing, brilliant medium, and it should not die.

After shooting with a Canon Rebel XS for 9 months, I decided to switch to film as well. The turning point was when I took some pictures at a friends barbecue with a borrowed Canon A1 with an excellent 50mm lens and absolutely fell in love with the results. This was one of those shots: http://www.flickr.com/photos/brownbeatle/4855201727/

Film is very good for two reasons: Once you take a photo, you forget about it and move on instead of reviewing the photo. You're on the street to take pictures not to review them.

Second reason: By the time you get the negatives and scan them you lose the emotional connection with the moment you take the actual photo. Therefore you evaluate the frames in a more honest and objective fashion.

I appreciate the time I shot with digital, it took me from a complete beginner (I didn't even know what an f-stop meant) to an amateur a hundred thousand times faster than film would but once you get to that level I think shooting film is a lot more rewarding experience.

People still ride horses, sail ships, write with pen and paper.

Just because there is an easy way of doing things that doesn't mean it is the only, best way of doing things.

Don't act so surprised. Maybe it's a 'niche' but I suppose oil paints are too, doesn't mean oil and canvas are 'dead.'

A recent article of SCMP on local Fujifilm situation has repeated the similar theme on decling film sales but they try to make it survive to ... well go for the skincare product! In fact Fujifilm has sold these line for several year in Japan and now moved to Hong Kong. It is a surprise but both used, according to a local distributer in the interview that as collagen is from cow skin and it is also used in many skincare products. It said that they have to do it as the drop from 300,000 rolls per month in a small place like Hong Kong down to 10,000 rolls per month. (This still sound quite a lot.)

Even local shop like Fotomax have around 1.5m print from film only whilst the other part of the 50m print per year comes from digital. Sales of sales dropped from to HK$7 million per year from HK$70 million (which tie in with the above but still a lot.)

As they said, "We may need to offer more services and products for customers but we don't need to abandon film." I hope that reflect what Fujifilm did.

I am still saving my money for my next order of 10 boxes of 8x10 Velvia 50. Hope it helps.

I think the internet makes it easier to have hobbies like working on film. Before if you were to choose between many film types you would have to go and do yourself some experiments. For better or worse in the internet age, if you are curious what happens when you cross process x with y, it's only a Flickr group away. I, myself bought a Rolleicord last week after reading about home b&w developing using a changing bag and your post last year about scanning negatives.

I would never have thought that scanning medium format negatives would've that cheap with decent results. Craigslist and 10 bucks later, I have a scanner that can scan medium format and large format transparencies. A few more dollars in some chemicals and a changing bag and I'll have a complete kit to process my own film.

I keep going to a public BW darkroom every Friday here in Nuremberg, Germany. We have indeed some twentysomething people (and some even younger) coming to discover what you can do with those cameras and with that workflow. They definitely like the workflow and the darkroom mood, the handling of film and paper and the handling of the metal body cameras. Two or three years ago I thought that the darkroom might get closed due to decreasing interest in it, but now new visitors keep dropping in constantly.

My film work flow: after taking the photographs, take the roll of film to the processor. Later, return to the processor to pick up the photos. Review the photos and show the processor's staff the frames that were not printed properly. Return later to retrieve the redone photos. Return to the processor again at a later date to drop off negatives for enlargements of selected photos. Return later to pick up the enlargements.
I know, the above statement is cynical. But I think that there is some truth there. Having said that, the best wedding photos that I've seen were the ones of my own wedding taken 22 years ago. The photographer was great-he was a commercial photographer who was just starting out on his own, and he did our wedding to help pay the bills until his commercial business took off. The photos were taken on Kodak Portra film with a Hasselblad. In addition to the portraits, he also took candids with that Hassy, which I think is amazing. I have yet to see any wedding photos taken with a digital camera (they all seem to be dSLRs these days) to match the quality of those photos.

Although I haven't shot film for over 4-1/2 years there's no digital camera that I like as much as the Leica M-6; but, nevertheless, notwithstanding people making statements like the Kodak manager quoted above, I think that film will disappear, for all practical purposes, quite suddenly in 10+ years — perhaps after Hollywood goes digital, which is bound to happen, and the major market for movie film evaporates.

There was a guy called Jay on the photo.net Leica forum who was very knowledgeable on Leica cameras and lenses and who, about ten or so years ago, rubbed a lot of people the wrong way mainly by frequently saying that digital cameras would take over the bulk of the camera market very suddenly and much faster than people thought. Well, like other people, I thought it would not happen as suddenly and to the degree that it did, but Jay was right. Similarly, I think that film will disappear, in terms of becoming so expensive and difficult to procure, that it effectively will be gone much sooner than people now expect.

—Mitch/Bangkok

Interesting, and hopefully true.

I'm a person with a foot in both camps,(I shoot with high end digital gear and a variety of film formats up to 10x8), but am still firmly attached to film for a great deal of what I do. I'm lucky in that I have access to a lab that still cares enough to do great optical prints from my negatives, (colour and black and white), so I don't have to go down the scan/manipulate/print path that often.

I think that there is something about the random grain structure in film that makes it great for portrait work, and, to my eyes, a good fiber based silver print beats an inkjet/pigment print.

There is certainly a place for film still. In the words of an advertising guru I meet once, "... it's about and and, not either or."

And in relation to the younger photographers and film, I'm always seeing young people around here with Canon A1's, Nikon FM's, Olympus OM's and Pentax's among a smattering of TLR's and other medium format gear wandering around and actually using them.

Unlike those who claim shooting film has disappeared because the quarter sales have been decreasing for several years - a mathematical impossibility, but let's leave it at that... - I simply shoot film because I like the results.
Couldn't care less if a "pro" has moved to digital: I'm not a pro - I don't care what they use, never did.
As a result, I now use and enjoy top of the line film cameras at a price that would have been unthinkable 10 years ago, I have full frame lenses to go with them that I was told were "outdated" because everyone uses APS-C "digital lenses", and I have proper film scanners, not flatbed abortions. For 135, medium format 645, 6X6 and 6X7.

Amazing results. Thank you, "digital revolution"! :)

PS: before I get the uninformed "luddite" comments, I do have two dslrs which I use as well, where they are handy.
It's all about photography. Not the media, not the gear, not the process!

Maybe it just has to do with those gorgeous viewfinders that (even the crappiest) film bodies have?

i'm part of the bridge generation, too. started with film a few years before digital got rolling. after all these years, they still haven't made a digital camera that really made me want to "go digital", except for mfdb that are completely out of my price range.

Unfortunately it's sooooo difficult to find a BW film. At least in the city I live in.

Mail order? Internet?

I fall into the group of kids (kid being relative, I'm 28!)

Me too, I'm only 46!
I tried digital from 2003 to 2005 then went back to film. Best decision I ever made.

I've just picked up a Minolta SRT101 with 55mm lens, for £22. I'm using it with a separate meter (Weston Master 5) and relearning judging of exposure, squeezing the release instead of relying on image stabilisation, and choosing my moment instead of just shootin' away. I've developed some bad habits since going digital and lost some good ones.

The lens is a bit longer than I'm used to as I prefer a 35mm, but I'm starting to look at things differently because of it. 400 ASA colour neg film appeals to me at the moment.

Some of the students I taught were really excited by film, often 120 roll or 5X4, and are happy to go into the darkroom and make wet prints rather than the "tried and tested" digital workstation that they have become so accustomed to.
I still don't think it has a lot of relevance to modern commercial photography, but if it makes the kids interested, it's working for them.

Mike,
My daughter is a 3rd yr art student who loves film for her Holga, and vinyl LPs for her turntable.

Of course she grew up spending time with me in my darkroom, but she says that she enjoys things that take time and care. This is contrasted to the instant worlds of digital and disposable phone camera pics and mp3s.

I think, perhaps, that there is also another phenomenon going on based on my involvement in a number of groups. People like me that never got into photography because, frankly, it was a pain. Learning was slow, and painful, oh so expensive. Sure some of you punched through that phase but many of us shrugged, found something else and moved off to a new past time.

But then digital came and we could learn quickly and easily (and cheaply). Instead of toiling away, taking notes, toiling laboriously through film, processing it and printing it(or waiting for the lab) we were able to zip through the lessons. Grasping concepts that previously took days, or weeks, or months in minutes. Because it was there, immediately, you got to see the result while you still remembered what you did.

And then we understood exposure and composition and lighting, we had confidence. And film wasnt so scary, wasnt so difficult, it was just like 'normal' photography without using the review screen much. And this photography has 'street cred' its smart, and cool and somehow more real. We keep shooting digital but we see film as a viable choice and something we will really work to master. We start thinking of medium format. We buy old bronica's or pentax's or contax's.

But here's the bad news. One day, when wee are picking up the prints and paying the man 20-30 dollars for processing a single roll of MF film and there isnt a single shot on the roll that we really, truly, in our heart of hearts actually like we stop shooting film.

Well thats my story anyway.

I dont doubt that film use is stabilising, there will always be a core of people that love it, that romanticise it that make the rest of us keen to try it. But film hasnt changed and the reasons not many were really into film havent really gone away. So film wont die, it will linger on, inspiring some and teasing many more, but I cant see it ever being more than that.

A tease that very few actually grow to love.

I've been tempted to use film again, but I mentally run through all the steps, think about them for a while and then just lean back and play some old 78 RPMs on my old turn-table instead.

I recently picked up a PZ-1 and an MX to complement my K20D. There is something so nostalgically satisfying about advancing the film, whether I do it myself or hear the sound of the motor doing it. Takes me back. (I'm 42.) It's a different experience from digital, and I enjoy all three cameras in different ways.

Interesting to note that I know a few teachers working at different colleges teaching photography as both an elective and primary area of study, and in all these institutions, any exploration of the idea of closing the film based darkrooms for a concentration on digital only studies is met by a near riot from the student body! Once they get bitten by the "craft" associated with film, they're very unlikely to want to give it up. Digital is looked at like something easy and disposable, whereas film is looked at as more "precious" and "artsy".

Awoke this morning to find an article in my local newspaper concerning the worry of curators at the Library of Congress that our audio files of famous radio shows, musicians, and events are fast being reduced to rubble by corrupted digital audio files and CD media that only lasts a few years (apparently your local stations are not archiving on Gold Discs!), not to mention the problems associated with file migration! Apparently, according to them, nothing lasts like analog material, stored correctly, and they talk about something called "active archiving" vs. "passive archiving", wherein modern digital materials need the "active" sort that needs constant checking and technology updating, whereas classic analog just needs the "passive" archiving of proper storage. Hmmm, another reason I love film.

When I get an assignment I deem to be a "legacy" assignment, such as shooting a jazz guy for a CD cover, or a local person of import, I always shoot film, even if I have to expense a lot of it myself, just because I want it "there" in the future.

BTW, when I was getting into digital more heavily at my clients request, actually "demand", it was interesting that a clean condition RB67 with a few lenses and backs from KEH is less money that a Nikon D90, kit lens, and a few batteries and storage cards!

Viva La Film!

Is this becoming a romanticized nostalgic vintage and veteran photo blog with a pro-film bias? I hope not.

Why doesn't Kodak (or Fuji) buy the Coolscan technology from Nikon, then cut the price in half and sell them? I would think that film sales would shoot up like crazy. I know that I would shoot film if I could get my hands on a scanner like that. Seems obvious to me: songs/ipods, blades/razors, ink/printers, film/scanner...

I just got back my last roll of Kodachrome, shot on the camera I got as a high school graduation present: a Pentax H1a with a 50mm f2 lens. The exposures were guessed from an old kodachrome exposure chart. Scanned and downloaded they surpassed anything I have gotten on digital when viewed on the monitor, and I have beautiful hard copy slides to boot.

Like some mentioned above, it's more about the shooting process for me. With my digital cameras, I turn off the review screen and shoot in M or A mode, and that makes shooting digital feel roughly similar to film.

Hey Arg!

No chance of the digital horse being put back into the barn, so you're safe there, but referring to film as "nostalgic" is kind of like saying a 2008 Toyota Corolla is "nostalgic" because Tesla has a full electric car, and you'd wish grandpa would stop talking about those dern gas cars! Or maybe a better analogy would be after they perfected modern acrylic paint for artists, why do those dern old grandpas keep talking about oils!

Good to remember, that when it comes to film, the year is 2010, but when it comes to digital, the year is 1853 and you're doing a tin-type. That's the maturity level the technology is on! (and yet, photo/artists are still doing tin-types! Hmmm, collusion with the devil?) If you were sleeping and woke up ten years from now, you might not even recognize the way digital photography will function, it's going to change so much!

Or, as a drunken digital tech salesman in a bar told me back in the 1990s: "...we need to keep selling you un-perfected, non-mature digital technology every 3-5 years, for too much money, so I can keep my job, we can keep the share-holders happy, and we can finance our scientists to keep developing the technology."

I love film, I have a grudging respect and appreciation for digital and use it all the time, and I say it's all about using what helps you best capture the image. It's about the image...

I'm getting back into photography after a decade or so, and just bought a Nikon F100 with a 50/1.8. Both in like-new shape for $300 total. I love the controls and the feel of it in my hand. And the images are awesome. I looked at the Rebel T2i and other similar cameras, but it would have been $1,000 all in. For the extra $700 I can shoot and develop a couple thousand frames using a pro-quality camera and really get my feet wet again. I think its a tremendous bargain.

"when it comes to digital, the years is 1853 and you're doing a tin-type. That's the maturity level the technology is on!"

Tom,
I agree. We tend to forget this.

For one thing, I just can't imagine that 35mm camera form-factors are going to hold on for very long. Mirrorless cameras are a small step away from that and into the future, but when today's twentysomethings are as old as I am now, the 35mm-style DSLR is going to seem as quaint and outdated as a Commodore 64.

Mike

I'm a 42 year old guy who only discovered photography about 6 years ago. I come from a Computer Science background. So going digital was a no brainer for me since I know and understand that world. And like many here I believe the constant immediacy of feedback helped me progress quickly and keep me interested. (fueled an addiction is what it did! ;) ) I've taken every class, watched vids, and read all the books I could get my hands on. But most importantly I've shot many thousands of images.

However, as my study of photography has progressed I find myself moving towards film, specifically B&W film. And I have two reasons that motivate me in this direction:

1. I do not like the user experience of today's digital cameras. I'm not a luddite by any strectch of the imagination, but I find all the features motivated by the marketing hype for sales distracting. I feel they take me away from the core issues involved in making a great image. I find the technology surrounding cameras from 25+ years ago to be a far superior user experience. And it takes me out of the chaotic marketing loop of the latest and greatest. I just want a simple, quality experience.

2. Quality digital gear is expensive. I can't afford a $20k+ medium format digital camera. I know I can get really great images with a smaller sensor/negative, but I'd like to have the sensor/negative size of the photographers that I admire; the portraitists and art photographers many of whom shot/shoot medium/large format. I'd also like the elbow room that an image from a negative/sensor that size affords me. I have found that quality film gear is VERY affordable with some homework and a lot of patience. This gear changes the way I shoot and I like that. It slows things down and makes me think about what I'm doing. And I really enjoy that part of the process.

Currently I'm shooting B&W film with a Hasselblad 500C/M which I was able to piece together on ebay and flea markets for about $500. I get a medium format negative that I scan into Lightroom. I make levels adjustments and print digitally from there.

I am interested in printing in a wet darkroom, but I don't have access to a darkroom. I am also more than a little intimidated by the learning curve of becoming a really good printer. (I've learned enough to know the difference dammit! :) ) But maybe the opportunity will arise in the future.

Just another perspective to add to others listed here.

That reminds me I've got a roll of HP5 out of a borrowed Mamiya 7II. Lets see was that six months ago or a year ago? Yeah film was kinda cool. I shot ten or so rolls of various 120 and 220 films and was surprised at both my ability to focus and expose with good accuracy and the lack of an objective quality advantage over digital, even on perfectly focused and exposed 6x7 frames. (Scanned workflow. Everything I hear is traditional optical printing isn't going to win either unless a lot of darkroom skill and time is in the offing. I'll leave that to Mike.)

In terms of cameras, I decided a rangefinder is the way to go. A medium format digital rangefinder at the size and weight of the 7II would be a photographic instrument to behold.

I really ought to get that last roll developed sometime...

There is a time and a place for everything....digital, analog....both....personaly I use a GF1 and LX3 for my day to day work and a F5 and a Coolscan 5 for....well for something special....when I want to use a real of 35mm on a subject....a special city....a single bridge....a carpark....slow....tedious....or a 15 minute quicky shoot....or....when it's really on of those shoots I need 1,5 kg of finest Japanees workmanship in order to get through the shoot at all....the rest....digital babyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!

Greetings, Ed

The Coolscan V at it's street price was an amazing bargain, wasn't it? I'm kind of sad to see so few good scanners left in the market; this must indeed by an issue for a number of the people getting into film now (film camera, digital printing is a popular and very useful workflow).

Maybe I should set myself the goal of reaching the point where I can put my film scanner onto ebay (i.e. getting through all the back scanning). Except I doubt I'd ever be satisfied I had the perfect good-enough scan of every image I'd ever care about.

When Olympus comes out with the E-3Ti and E-4Ti, only then will I know for sure that digital technology has sufficiently matured.

Meanwhile, I happily use the OM-3Ti and OM-4Ti which have no equal in the digital realm. Only the M9 comes close.

It's not about the medium so much as it is about the tools. Cameras such as the above mentioned represent a maturity of design and are "complete" whereas every six months the digital cameras are obsoleted by something new and improved. It's the sixties and seventies all over again.

I say that it isn't the medium, because for most of us, the workflow involves the digitization of the image. By going back to film for my high-quality work, I've been able to avoid buying new and improved digital cameras for two upgrade cycles now. That cost-avoidance has saved me several thousand dollars.

In the older visual arts like painting and sculpture, we have so many choices with respect to technique and materials. And people never talk about one replacing the other. Nobody asks why you still paint with oil when you could be using acrylic. Few foretold the death of charcoal drawing when you could do it with a computer. It's just accepted as a personal choice.

Why should photography be any different?

I recently bought a 4x5 camera to complement my 6x6 Mamiya C220.

I stopped by my local dealer, and a pretty lady in her early twenties bought the same thing as I: a 4x5 film holder.

After being digital for about 6 yrs, I just got this urge for film and bought a Contax G2, my first RF. I am loving film for some crazy reason! Mind you, I was Large Format analog B&W for some 30 years before digital....

...For one thing, I just can't imagine that 35mm camera form-factors are going to hold on for very long. Mirrorless cameras are a small step away from that and into the future, but when today's twentysomethings are as old as I am now, the 35mm-style DSLR is going to seem as quaint and outdated as a Commodore 64.

Yeah, they're all going to be APS-C or 4/3rds format with the Fujifilm X100 retro-rangefinder look. But seriously, eventually the popularity of full-frame (35mm) digital cameras will greatly decline, as their main draw, even now, is for people (and camera companies) to be able to use their old 35mm lenses; but, ultimately, digital lenses optimized for particular sensors give better results. Some people think that Olympus 4/3rds lenses, with their large image circle relative to the sensor of Olymous-E camera,s have better overall image quality than legacy Leica-M lenses on the M8 and M9.

—Mitch/Paris

I understand why people who use only digital secretly long for the 'death' of film. It's so darn annoying when you've spent so much on a new body each year, a bigger sensor, an upgraded raw-processor and faster CPU, and then some clown with a thirty-year old rangefinder still takes better pictures than you!

The sooner that darn stuff disappears the better!

My son just told me he is loading some film holders to go out into Savannah to make some frames.
He jumps from digital to film and back effortlessly. They aren't in competition, they compliment each other.
I love the instant feedback from my digital camera almost as much as the limited uncertainty of film.
My son got me into Ziatypes last year and the idea that you aren't entirely sure what you will find in the tray when you turn on the lights gives me a mild photographer buzz. Go figure.

This isn't far off for me, and it's your fault. I haven't touched film in over ten years - made the switch early in 1999, and never looked back.

But now, after the whole "Leica for a year" recap I lucked into an old 4x5 Crown Graphic. And for testing films, I've been beating up an equally old Graflex Graphic 35 (the German line). It's all B&W so far, but I'm hand-developing the film & just loving the whole experience. Oh, to see grain that's pleasing! And to see the obvious mistakes of a beginner, I suppose.

I must say: I love having the option of moving back to film with an all-manual camera. Nothing quite like it, and best: no batteries!

George: Look at the "Hipstamatic" app on iPhone.

Do you think that's merely aping an appearance of film (therefore film set the standard), or replacing it as a genre of "photos that look like they were shot with a 50¢ plastic lens pretending to be old-fashioned"?

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